No PAT Fix in Budget Address

The Governor devoted two short paragraphs in his budget message (ten pages in all in this printed version) to transportation-he made no distinction between mass transit, roads, or highways-and indicated that it will be treated as a "distinct and separate topic". That could mean there will be a special session on transportation the way there was one for property taxes in 2006. But that also means there is no quick fix for the woes that plague the Port Authority, which is facing a $64 million deficit and plans to eliminate a substantial number of routes in September.

Whether the transportation plan encompasses some, all, or none of the recommendations made by the Transportation Commission in its report last August in unknown. The Commission suggested various increases to fees and taxes to pay for transportation needs.

The Governor also stated that the solutions need to be long-lasting. While transit advocates are hoping for long-lasting and growing revenues, perhaps there will be focus on the cost-side changes that are long overdue: the power to strike, the impact of monopoly power, and the need to look at bankruptcy for legacy costs.

The real question is how the Governor will handle the issues related to PAT in the coming months with the deficit and previous history of temporary flexes to get the agency through tough spots and avoid a planned round of service cuts.